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John Clare

(13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864 / Northamptonshire / England)

I Hid My Love

I hid my love when young till I
Couldn't bear the buzzing of a fly;
I hid my love to my despite
Till I could not bear to look at light;
I dare not gaze upon her face
But left her memory in each place;
Where'er I saw a wild flower lie
I kissed and bade my love goodbye.

I met her in the greenest dells,
Where dewdrops pearl the wood bluebells;
The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eye,
The bee kissed and went singing by,
A sunbeam found a passage there,
A gold chain round her neck so fair;
As secret as the wild bee's song
She lay there all the summer long.

I hid my love in field and town
Till e'en the breeze would knock me down;
The bees seemed singing ballads o'er,
The fly's bass turned to lion's roar;
And even the silence found a tongue,
To haunt me all the summer long;
The riddle nature could not prove
Was nothing else but secret love.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Henk Capelle (9/6/2012 12:47:00 PM)

    Among Clare's love poems this one may be his most intimate one. Again the poet conjures up the memory of Mary Joyce, thus offering a deep insight into the feelings of a young boy in love. In this tender lyric, in unaffected language, it seems as if memory of and longing for youthful days become interwoven. This is not surprising, as later in his life Clare wrote that love was the main spring of existence.
    Captured in three perfectly crafted stanzas, he first tells us of the happy hours spent after school and on Sundays when his beautiful girl friend Mary, fair haired and with blue eyes, and he used to walk in the fields and woods around Helpston, where he lived, and Glinton, Mary's abode. It seems obvious that the poem was written pretty long after their relationship had been broken off at the instigation of Mary's parents by reason of class distinctions. The 'secret love' in the last line might also have sprung to his mind, thinking of her parents' attitude.
    The vocabulary of this lyric is simple as usual. The style is beautifully quiet and gentle. The rhyme scheme aa bb cc dd is controlled and soothing. It is also worthwhile having a close look at the alliteration in this poem. Surprisingly many words begin with the /b/ sound, such as in The lost breeze kissed her bright blue eyes. It is as if the 'buzzing' in the second line is continuously audible throughout the poem. At times one is enthralled by a magic line like even the silence found a tongue. To me there is no trace of rebellion, resignation or despair in the poem - a rare phenomenon with Clare.
    As in most other Mary poems there is a fusion of his deepest feelings for her together with a detailed description of the unspoilt natural world surrounding them on their excursions. Especially in the last two stanzas there is an abundance of references to what they saw and experienced in the countryside: dells, dewdrops, bluebells, breeze, bee and so on; the overall effect of which is carefully considered. Being in love has changed the world around him completely. It even becomes almost unbearable and reaches its culmination in the line The fly's bass turned to lion's roar. The calm returns with his later discovery of the reason why he lived in a transformed world for 'a summer long' - it was nothing else but secret love.
    Truly, this is a unique Clare poem that pulls deeply and surpasses one's strongest expectations, even when one has read or recited scores of other poems memorizing Mary Joyce. (Report) Reply

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